Use a Cover Letter Checklist to Ace Your Job Applications

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May 5, 2023
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min read

We get it – cover letters are time-consuming! 

But when done well, they are an excellent opportunity to improve your chances of securing an interview. While knee-deep in job hunting, cover letters can feel like a painful obligation, but with modern tools, they can be a breeze and empowering to write.

Think of your cover letter as your opportunity to dazzle potential employers. They demonstrate your unique qualifications as a candidate. Cover letters are your chance to make a personable, memorable impression that provides a snapshot of what it’s like to work with you.

Create a stand-out cover letter with our comprehensive checklist. In this article, we’ll outline what to include, mistakes to avoid, and where to find tools to help you write your best cover letter.

Why use a cover letter checklist? 

Starting from scratch with a blank page is daunting, but starting with a basic framework and content structure makes a task much easier. Job markets can be competitive, but checklists help make these tasks manageable and assure you that you haven’t missed any critical components.

Referencing a quick checklist while you write your cover letter can help you send job applications faster and with less effort. It can also remind you to highlight key strengths and express your interest in a format that's easy for hiring managers to read, helping you stand out.

Contents of an effective cover letter checklist 

Optimize your cover letter with keywords

Utilizing the job description’s keywords can help you emphasize key abilities to the recruiter or hiring manager. By highlighting specific qualifications and achievements directly concerning the job, you can demonstrate your thorough comprehension of the job requirements and position yourself as a strong candidate for the role. This increases the likelihood of being selected for an interview, getting you one step closer to landing your role.

But how can you identify keywords in a job description? Teal’s Chrome extension has got you covered! When you save a job within the extension’s Job Application Tracker, it’ll show you the top five keywords for that particular role. You can then take those keywords and incorporate them into the cover letter yourself or let Teal’s AI functionality automatically write it for you. 

Sign up for a Teal account today to access it for free!

Teal’s Chrome Extension allows you to easily bookmark jobs from job boards and save them to your Job Application Tracker.
Teal’s Chrome Extension allows you to easily bookmark jobs from job boards and save them to your Job Application Tracker.

If you’re writing a cover letter without the help of AI,  be sure to incorporate keywords in a way that sounds natural and genuine. While you want to use relevant keywords in the same way they are written in the JD, don’t be afraid to use variations of the job description’s keywords to avoid sounding redundant.

For example, if the job posting uses the words "strong communication skills", you could include the phrase "excellent interpersonal skills" or "effective communicator". Synonyms and related terms can help to make your cover letter more engaging and dynamic while still incorporating the necessary verbiage.

Thoughtful personalization

Try to address the hiring manager by name when possible to demonstrate your attention to detail. Addressing a person by name lets you avoid using a generic title or salutations like “Dear Sir, Madam, or Dear Hiring Manager.” 

If a name isn't listed in the job description, try contacting the relevant team or HR department. Let them know you will be submitting a job application and would like to address the hiring manager in your cover letter. A personal touch can make a great impression and show that you have gone the extra mile to do your research.

Structure and formatting

Opening your cover letter

While this part can seem relatively straightforward, it's paramount to be clear about the position you're applying for. 

Further, this is your moment to hook your reader. Highlight your noteworthy skills and reasons for your interest. Sharing a personal anecdote that indicates your enthusiasm for the position can help make for a memorable cover letter that inspires further reading and consideration.

For example, “I am excited to apply for the Senior Software Engineer position at HubSpot, where my five years of experience as a Software Engineer at WordPress and lifelong passion for computer science can drive further innovation and advancement.”

The main body of your letter

The main body of any cover letter format should generally be one paragraph or two sections in length and draw clear and relevant connections from the job description to your background, including hard and soft skills. Explain what your experience brings to the table and the value your expertise would offer companies.

Closing your cover letter

Before ending your letter, express your enthusiasm for the specific role. You might also mention your passion for your career or appreciation for the organization or company's culture. Keep your cover letter formatted about half a page to within a single page, then thank the reader for their consideration, ask for an interview, and state the best ways they can get in touch with you. Including your LinkedIn profile, professional website, or portfolio can be a nice note to include under your sign-off.

Grammar and language

Minor grammatical errors are not only easy to make but easy to miss during a final check. We recommend not only re-reading your work but running your letters through a grammar-checking tool and spell-checker. Small spelling errors, while small, can make a candidate who is a good fit appear unprofessional to employers. 

Be sure to proofread your letter thoroughly. Even minor errors can detract from the professionalism of your letter and reflect poorly on your attention to detail. Take the time to read your letter multiple times carefully, and you can even have a trusted peer review it, too. The applicant with keen attention to detail will make a better impression on the hiring manager.

Highlight relevant experience

Before you start writing your cover letter, ensure you fully read through the job requirements. Comb through the job description carefully and make a list of the qualifications and skills the employer is looking for, then use this list as a guide when highlighting relevant experience in your cover letter.

Try to provide specific examples of how your experience has prepared you for this new job. You could even use bullet points to make it easy for the hiring manager to skim through your qualifications. Speaking directly to the needs of the job will demonstrate your capabilities as a candidate, as well as your attention to detail.

For example, you might highlight how your experience as a product manager has prepared you to successfully manage the multi-tasking and unpredictability that come with a position as a Head of Product.

In addition to highlighting your experience, showcase your applicable skills. Provide examples of how you have used these skills and how they will be valuable in the job you are applying for. Use the specific keywords in the job application to show that you have the skills the employer is looking for, letting them easily file you in their applicant tracking system. 

Prove you have the relevant skills and experience by including metric-driven achievements demonstrating results and impact. Using Teal's AI Resume Builder with AI functionality, you can easily generate multiple tailored achievements.

Use the AI integration feature within Teal's AI Resume Builder to generate work achievements.
Use the AI integration feature within Teal's AI Resume Builder to generate work achievements.

Best practices for using a cover letter checklist 

Tailor your cover letter to the specific job posting

We know it’s a lot of work to tailor your resume and cover letter, but using a checklist can minimize the time it takes to make a great one. By customizing your cover letter to each job description, you can demonstrate noteworthy interest and strong candidacy to the company.

Also, it shows that you've done your research on the company and the role, indicating that you're a serious candidate who is genuinely interested in the job and not just looking for your next paycheck.

Customizing cover letters can be laborious, but now Teal’s AI Resume Builder with AI functionality makes it quick and easy. The AI Resume Builder can generate numerous versions of your cover letter, tailored to each desired job description, expediting your process.

Use the AI functionality within Teal’s AI Resume Builder to tailor multiple versions of your cover letter. 
Use the AI functionality within Teal’s AI Resume Builder to tailor multiple versions of your cover letter. 

Your cover letter checklist is a template for personalization

Use the checklist as a guide rather than a complete formula. While the checklist can ensure that you include all the necessary and critical components, following it without thought or personalization can result in a generic and forgettable cover letter.

Seek feedback on your cover letter

Enlisting a trusted friend or mentor’s thoughts and feedback might provide further insight on how to grab the hiring manager's attention. Having someone else read your letter can help catch any mistakes, plus another pair of eyes could offer a fresh perspective on drawing connections between the job description and relevant skills you may have forgotten to highlight.

Bonus tips for an awesome cover letter

Demonstrate familiarity with the company culture

Finding the right culture fit for a role can be a significant qualification for some hiring managers. Expressing your familiarity with a specific company's mission and core values could be a major differentiator regarding your candidacy.

Some companies are looking for a person who is highly passionate about their mission; for example, an environmentally-friendly energy company may prefer to hire a candidate who showcases a passion for climate-friendly policies and conservation work. This is where getting creative and infusing a personal touch can set you apart and work in your favor.

Use active voice instead of passive voice

An active voice focuses on the subject of the sentence performing the action, which adds more clarity and directness to your writing, conveying confidence and ownership over your achievements.

On the other hand, the passive voice puts emphasis on the object of the sentence, which can come across as vague or uncertain. The passive voice also tends to be less engaging. By using an active voice, your cover letter can sound more compelling when explaining why you're the ideal candidate for the job.

Be yourself

While guidelines for cover letters are fairly standard, you don’t want your cover letter to bore your reader. Try to make your cover letter a professional yet personal reflection of you as a person and an employee. 

You want to leave your reader with an inspired impression of the value you'd bring to the company, which includes more than your hard skills and professional experience— your personality has value as well. Showcase your ability to approach your professional work with a style that is uniquely yours.

To get inspiration for your own cover letter, take a look at these short cover letter samples.

Common cover letter mistakes to avoid

  • Avoid clichés and generic phrases that don't add value to your letter. Your cover letter won’t stand out from other applicants by using clichéd phrases. Run-of-the-mill verbiage can sound unoriginal and indicates a lack of concern.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to have a general cover letter as a starting point, but you’d be making a huge mistake if you submitted the same cover letter for every job you applied for. Regardless of similarities, each job description is unique. Therefore, your cover letter should be uniquely tailored to each JD. 
  • Refrain from discussing salary expectations or benefits here. This is something that can be broached in later-stage interviews. 
  • Keep your tone professional and positive. Avoid criticizing your previous employer or speaking negatively about them, as it can create the impression that you're difficult to work with.
  • It's important to avoid simply regurgitating information and writing your resume verbatim in your cover letter, as this misses the opportunity to showcase your unique qualifications and enthusiasm for the position.

Access the Cover Letter Checklist

We’ve created a comprehensive cover letter checklist to help you craft an effective and personalized cover letter that lands you your dream job. 

Our checklist includes best practices such as optimizing your cover letter with relevant keywords. With our easy-to-use checklist, you'll be able to tailor your cover letter to each job posting and demonstrate your strong candidacy and genuine interest in the position. Access our cover letter checklist today and take your job application to the next level!

Check out Teal’s Cover Letter Checklist

Craft a winning cover letter with Teal 

Creating an exceptional cover letter shouldn't be hard. In fact, it can be easy when using Teal’s AI functionality within the AI Resume Builder

Add your professional history once by either uploading an existing resume or importing your LinkedIn profile, and your information will be stored in your Career History to pick and choose from when customizing your job application assets. Then, merge your information and a job description from your Job Application Tracker  to quickly generate multiple versions of your cover letter and resume for each job. 

Use Teal’s tools to make your job search more impactful and speed up your creation process to land your dream job faster.

Frequently Asked Questions

What specific elements should be included in a cover letter to make it stand out?

A standout cover letter should include a personalized greeting, a clear and compelling opening statement, evidence of your relevant skills and experiences, a demonstration of your knowledge about the company, and a strong closing statement with a call to action. Ensure it is concise, well-structured, and free from errors to make a positive impression.

How can I tailor my cover letter for different job applications without rewriting it entirely?

To tailor your cover letter without a complete rewrite, focus on adjusting the opening paragraph to address the specific job title and company, swap out key achievements or skills that are most relevant to each position, and incorporate keywords from the job description. This targeted approach shows employers that you've done your homework and are genuinely interested in the role.

Is it necessary to include a cover letter even if the job application doesn't ask for one?

While not always required, including a cover letter can be beneficial as it provides an opportunity to further showcase your qualifications and enthusiasm for the position. It demonstrates initiative and professionalism, helping you to stand out in a competitive job market. If the application process does not prohibit unsolicited materials, it is generally a good idea to include one.

Rachael Gilpin

Rachael is a writer and SEO strategist who accidentally got her start after keeping a personal blog during a year-long stint in Spain. From there, she started freelancing with a small marketing agency in New Zealand. With each new assignment, she was thrilled with disbelief that people were happy to pay her to play with words. The disbelief still has not completely subsided and she feels remarkably fortunate to have found a craft that excites her daily.

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